St. John’s Goes Virtual on November 29th

Our first virtual church service is scheduled to play on YouTube beginning Sunday, November 29th at 10:30 am. The link to the video can be found below. For those of you who are on Facebook, the video will also play at the same time on our Facebook page.

Please feel free to share the link with family and friends, and on your own personal facebook page to get the word out!

YouTube Link:

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St. John’s Closing to in-house Worship through December 2020

Due to the increase in COVID-19, St. John’s UCC will be closed to in-house worship beginning Sunday, November 29, 2020, and continuing through the end of December.

The church office will be open through the week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment.

Worship services during the Advent and Christmas season will take place virtually each week and will be posted on the church’s web page.

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Where Are You, God? Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

In the book, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, published at the beginning of this year by The Pilgrim Press, ten women writers responded to the 150 Biblical psalms with words of their own. Not a retelling of the psalms or an alternate translation, instead the book is a reply to those ancient words, engaging them for today.

Editor Martha Spong reports that over the course of the twelve months of 2019, she “watched a book idea that had lived only in my hopes grow froma conversation in an airport in January to a manuscript being sent to the printer in December. I had the joy of inviting nine women to work with me and the delight of hearing a yes from each of them. We all felt excited, and daunted, to engage with the psalms personally, yet also for a future audience of readers. Some of us do this weekly in crafting liturgy; here we wrote not for the collective voices of a congregation, but out of our particular contexts and experiences. It is an offering both to God and readers in this season of extreme division, full of passion and persistence. My hope is that readers will recognize themselves in the words of our mouths and be inspirted to articulate their own pslams for the struggle.”

Like the psalms themselves, the poems and prayers in”The Words of Her Mouth” are both deeply personal and widely universal and address a range of human experience and emotions. In response to Psalm 88, United Church of Christ Pastor Reverend Jennifer Garrison Brownell writes:

“Here are my tears,” you said. “Eat. And these are my tears, too. Drink.”

“Too salty!” we cried. “We can’t eat this sorrow! We can’t drink this suffering! We will die!”

You heard our protests and you lifted the plate and the cup anyway.

Most of us turned away. But some of us stayed to eat and drink with you, and we did not die as we had feared.

In truth, we lived. In truth, we live still.

Spong, Martha, ed. The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle. Copyright 2020 Martha Spong.

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Reigning Compassion Matthew 25:31-46 (I was hungry and you fed me)

Thanksgiving Sunday and United Black Christians Anniversary

We gather together to ask for God’s blessing, to live in community, seeking God’s will…*

So begins a hymn that many of us will sing during the Thanksgiving season, whether we worship on Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Eve or a Sunday before or after. We Gather Together, as the name suggests, is a hymn beloved by those of us who call ourselves congregational because it’s all about, well, congregating. Written in the 16th century in the Netherlands as a hymn of celebration of freedom from Spanish rule, it is perhaps surprising that we so often sing this in thanksgiving when it is intended as an anthem to national pride.

On Thanksgiving, many will gather around the table at a feast with families and friends. These gatherings, with their familiar food and faces can be comforting affairs. Yet, too often, our Thanksgiving celebrations turn inward. Although we can take satisfaction in gathering around an intimate table with our beloveds, when we face each other, our backs are turned to the world.

Too often in congregations we do this, too. Comforted by the familiar intimacy of our private feast and celebrations, our gatherings can become too comfortable, too insular.

The scripture reading from Matthew reminds us that when we feed, clothe and embrace the lost and alone, we are embracing Christ. This scripture in effect encourages us to turn our Thanksgiving table chairs the other way around. If your family and friends are not accustomed to facing that way, it may be uncomfortable to face out into the world and to respond to the needs we see.

So, turn around, face the world, so that we can freely and joyfully sing not just the first, but the last words of that beloved hymn.

Empowering all by the hope you engender. Grant wisdom and courage to follow your way.*

*Bayler, Lavon. We Gather Together, #421. The New Century Hymnal. Word adaptations Copyright 1992 The Pilgrim Press.

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The Attitude of Gratitude

November brings with it thoughts of gratitude.  After all, Thanksgiving is later in this month.  Social media outlets have gratitude challenges where participants post something every day for which they are thankful.

In her book,  Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass writes “Gratitude is more than just an emotion.  It is also a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in actions—it is an ethic.”  Gratitude is a disposition to be chosen and cultivated.  Thinking of something for which to be grateful every day changes my disposition.  I find it nearly impossible to hang on to a negative disposition once I start thinking about what I have to be grateful for.

When I was in seminary, I worked very part time as a chaplain in a skilled nursing facility.  One of the suggestions of my mentor at the time was to engage residents in conversations about gratitude.  Even the most curmudgeonly among them would change their outlook as we talked about gratitude.  Old memories would come up often followed by a smile and a shift in mood.

In my own times of negativity, I have found that keeping a gratitude journal helps me stay focused on the positive.  I have a journal (I use a composition book you can get at any place that sells school supplies) that I write in to list the things I have to be grateful for at the moment I am writing.  Reading past entries in the journal usually lifts my spirits and reminds me of what I have to be grateful for.

            In a recent conversation with our Transitional Conference Minister, Rev. David Long-Higgins, Dave said “Gratitude is a shift in energy which brings about transformation.”  It truly is.  And gratitude is something to stay focused on during these challenging times of 2020.

Pastor Katherine

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The Definitions of Interim Pastors Within the UCC

A Look at The Interim Pastorate

As St. John’s begins a new chapter with Reverend Katherine Beckett as our interim pastor, curiosity piqued about interim pastorates and the roles interim pastors play within the life of UCC congregations. The following questions were explored with Pastor Katherine and, we thank her for taking the time to answer in detail the questions presented in this article.

What is the role of an Interim Pastor as defined within the UCC?

In the United Church of Christ, interim ministry is the ministry provided to a local church or other ministry setting during a pastoral vacancy. Interim ministers are ordained pastors with special training and experience to minister to the needs and challenges of the time between pastors. They fulfill the usual pastoral duties of preaching, teaching, calling, and administering the sacraments. They also help the church explore and reclaim its past and sort out and understand feelings. They help the church discover its mission before the church prepares a profile to use in the search process for a pastor. 

Because the interim is time-limited (usually 12 to 14 months) church members are usually willing to experience various forms of leadership and to risk changes because they won’t be committed forever. Because the interim minister is not available as a candidate for the settled position, she or he can help the congregation examine the role of pastor and discover what attributes are really needed or desired. (provided by Parish Life and Leadership of Local Church Ministries Team from the National setting.)

What training is necessary to be an interim? How does the training differ from a “called” pastor?

There is no required training for interims beyond what is required to be an authorized minister. However, there are training opportunities available for those who want more specialized training. The Heartland Conference of the UCC and the Ohio Region of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ have a joint Interim Ministry Network that, among other things, co-sponsors basic interim training, usually every other year. This training is designed to prepare leaders to help congregations make the most of the time between the departure of one pastor and the calling of another.

There also is the Interim Ministry Network (IMN). IMN is an ecumenical organization that works to strengthen the spiritual and organizational health of faith communities by equipping and supporting those who lead during times of transition. As a result of this work, faith communities are stronger because they have effectively managed transition and are better able to share with their members and society God’s love that brings hope and joy in times of change. (from IMN website)

I have been through both the Ohio Interim Ministry Network’s training and IMNs training.

What types of continuing education courses are required for an interim? How often do interims participate in continuing education courses?

In the UCC, ministers are not required to participate in continuing education. However, there are continuing education courses and workshops available in all areas of ministry, including interim ministry. The Ohio Interim Ministry Network usually offers at least one or two continuing education opportunities a year and IMN offers several opportunities as well.

The opportunities offered by these two organizations address some of the issues unique to interim ministry.

Are there specific backgrounds in certain fields which are helpful to interims? For example, counseling, teaching, human relations?

It depends. Each church is different. I have found that my background in grief care has been especially helpful in interim ministry. My prior career as a probate paralegal involved a significant amount of grief care. I also have a MA in Counseling Ministries and 4 ½ units of Clinical Pastoral Education which was done in a hospital in Columbus. Both of these have proven very helpful in interim ministry.  Conflict management is another area that is helpful.

What are the expectations of an interim in a church setting? (For example, what is the role of an interim pastor within a congregational setting?) Is the protocol usually listed in the Covenant between the pastor, congregation, and Association?

The interim pastor fulfills the usual pastoral duties, i.e. preaching, teaching, administering sacraments, pastoral care. The expectation of the church is to work with the interim on the focal points of interim ministry which are:

Working on these focal points helps the congregation in writing their profile.

These expectations are listed in the Covenant between the pastor, congregation, and Association.

HERITAGE–Reviewing how the congregation has been shaped and formed.

LEADERSHIP–Reviewing the member needs and its ways of organizing and developing new and effective leadership

MISSION–Defining and redefining sense of purpose and direction

CONNECTIONS–Discovering all the relationships a faith community builds outside of itself

FUTURE–Developing congregational and pastoral profiles

Are there specific boundaries required of an interim as opposed to a “called” pastor?

Interims have the same boundaries as settled pastors.

What are the different types of interims, and how do their roles differ?

Interim Minister is a called position for a temporary term of congregational preparation for a settled pastor search, in which the minister does not typically move church membership to the congregation served or move standing to the related association.

There are three basic types of interim ministers:

  1.  Interim Minister or Transitioning Pastor: an interim pastor who fulfills the pastoral role and who also facilitates intentional transitional work with the congregation preparing for a settled pastorate.
  2. Professional Interim or Transition Ministry Specialist: an interim pastor whose career consists predominantly of such settings; may have specializations such as head-of-staff, after-pastor, or conflict facilitation.
  3. Transitional Consultant: a resource person who facilitates intentional transitional work with the congregation while the congregation is served by a different pastor; may bring specialization such as seamless transition, pastoral succession, or other skills.

There is also a Designated-term Pastor which is a called position for a designated time period for a defined purpose, in which the pastor may move church membership to the congregation served and may move standing to the related association.

Types of Designated-term Pastor:

What are the time limits for an interim to serve in a congregation? Can the time be extended if a “called” pastor is not found within a designated time limit?

  1. Revitalization or Turnaround Pastor: a designated-term pastor who is called for a specific time period and for a specific purpose: the revitalization of the congregation; after the initial designated term, the pastor is potentially eligible for the settled pastor position.
  2. Hospice or Legacy Pastor: a designated-term pastor who is called for a specific time period and for a specific purpose: the closure tasks of a congregation.
  3. Redevelopment or Repositioning Pastor: a designated-term pastor who is called for a specific time period and for a specific purpose: the creation of an identified new ministry within or alongside a current congregation; after the initial designated term, the pastor is potentially eligible for the settled pastor position.
  4. New Church Start Pastor: a designated-term pastor who is called for a specific time period and for a specific purpose: the gathering of a new church; after the initial designated term, the pastor is potentially eligible for the settled pastor position
  5. Other: a designated-term pastor who is called for a specific time period and for a specific purpose: such as merger, relocation, reunification, cultural reassessment, staff transition, selling a building, or healing a crisis; may be eligible for the settled position or for a renewed designated position.

(Developed by the Ministerial Excellence, Support &Authorization (MESA)Ministry Team with judicatory staff. 12/1/2014)

An interim can be called for any period of time. Typically, the initial call is for one year.  The interim covenant can be extended beyond that first year, if needed.

What specific interims may elect to become a regular pastor for a congregation when the search committee invites the interim to be their “called” pastor?

Interims cannot become the “called” pastor at the church where they are an interim. Designated pastors can.

Are many interims second career pastors having been in other careers prior to entering the interim ministry? Are most interims nudged by an internal spiritual call, rather than consciously choosing to be an interim?

I don’t have any specific statistics on either question. I know interims who became interims going the route of high school, college, seminary, so are in their mid-twenties when they start interim ministry. I also know interims (like me) who are second career ministers. A minister’s life experiences are helpful in interim ministry, so being a bit more seasoned is helpful. Some ministers go into interim ministry after they retire.

There is a greater need for interim ministers than there are trained interims.

I have been nudged by the Spirit into interim ministry. I originally felt called to chaplaincy but as I progressed through my clinical work and employment at a hospital, I didn’t feel that was the right call for me. I was working on a call as a missionary – which takes considerable time – and a church in my association was in need of an interim. At the Association meeting, one of their deacons was asking around for someone to at least do pulpit supply for Advent and Christmas. I offered as I knew the missionary position would not be worked out before the end of the year. My missionary position fell through and I ended up staying at that church as their interim for 13 months. When that term was finished, I was offered another interim, and another. after that.

October 2020

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Interim Pastor Named

The Reverend Katherine Beckett has been hired as full-time interim minister to serve St. John’s UCC for one year.  Reverend Beckett comes to us from Rockford, Ohio, and will be moving to the Bluffton community within a week or two.

We welcome her to St. John’s UCC and are looking forward to her time with us.

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

St.John’s UCC will be closed to in-house worship from Sunday, November 29 through the end of December 2020.

We hope everyone has a safe holiday season.

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Facebook Page

You are missing out on a super way to advertise our church if you are not sharing with many of your other Facebook friends St. John’s Facebook page.  There are many interesting articles posted every day.  “Friend” all of your friends and ask them to “Like” the St. John’s page–let’s let people know we are here, alive, and moving forward!

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St Johns Snow

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